Tham took a deep breath of the night air and let it settle into the cavities of his lungs before exhaling, its spiraling ecstasy along with the wind's darkly coquettish whisper of ghost tales. Fables. He purled and dropped his head back into stone, eyes reflecting on the moon.
Yes, it was time to rest; he had labored, he had harvested. Who could ask of more? Besides, the very thought caused his lips to curl in pleasure, who else had reaped as much as he?
Others averaged one to two a month, perhaps in a life time--
What was that?
He was accomplished. Elite.
Staring into the stars, playing connect-the-dots with the numbers in his head, he thought back to Hermes.
Yes, he had been a fine glean. His soul flower had been a strong bloom, vibrant even in the perpetual gloom of the Yard.
He would go far. Of that Tham was absolute.
He bit his lip, sighed.
Was the Night always this empty?
He followed the rows of gravestones with his sight, interrupted now and again by a mausoleum, a cross (the symbol of death and death only, nothing more). The elevated cross on the white steeple across the Yard sank into the liquid of his pupils, breaking the membrane of his visual organ and spilling his memories and mind out on the ground and his boot.
"Gazing at the moon breeds nightmares, like me--"
The silky voice trickled down Tham's skin like velvet milk, causing him to turn his head up to the shape perched amongst the mausoleum's carved gable, like a Grecian deity.
Thin, tapered wings half-folded in the night sky around them. The mouth parted in a spiraled smile, and spoke,
"Osiris. You're no nightmare of mine."
He was a truly remarkable creature, Tham gazed at the folds of the enormous wings, which, along with the man's nocturnal-hued hair, poured down to where Tham sat-- even from that height. Tham curled middle finger behind thumb, loading, locked-- flicked one of the great wings admirably in admiration.
"Hmm," he still smiled, something of a purr upon his tongue as his keen eyes absorbed the night's light, "No, perhaps not to you."
"It's been a while."
"Maybe a month. Why don't you come down here?" Tham patted the hair of the dead that grew green and lush, beside him.
"No thank-you," the white face tilted itself heavenward, the eyes slitting further in pleasure of company and of the crescent moon, "You know I prefer any place closer to the stars-- The stars, if possible. I had no idea you missed me so much, Tham. I'll have to take you flying with me sometime."
Only a sigh from Tham could cause that proud face to hang lower to the ground.
"How goes the harvest?"
"Three hundred fifty-seven."
The violet eyes glowed in an almost animistic way, as Osiris' throat birthed a thousand winging peals of laughter-- a requiem of gayer times, "Still, always, forever more numbers!"
"You have no numbers!"
"You're right, you're right. Settle down. I don't, I just have stories to tell."
"Stories?" Tham seemed to settle back into the cool stone, eyes once more on the moon.
"Yes, tales of where I've been, what I've done, who I've met. And having these tales, allows me to tell them to the people I run into, and, in turn, they tell me the tales of others they've collected with their own. And," another crescent moon appeared above Tham's brow in the darkness above him, and ivory one, "Tale goes, you've in love with one Artemisia."
Even as he started to his feet, trembling and dizzy with rage, the other still lounged like some god on the granite roof.
"Really Tham, I thought you only went for breathers."
"Tell me who told you--!"
"Told me. . . ?" The smile gloated down, a cut-out face in a flame-lit gourd.
"If it isn't true, why does it deserve the better of your emotions?"
Tham roared, stuffing the red haze from his burning eyes into his lifeless boot and letting momentum carry it, pendulum scythe, into a nearby marker. It crackled off, grey bone engraved in fact, splaying as an abrupt shower in the night. With gritted teeth he swung his shovel onto his back, where it hung, suspended by straps aplenty.
Curses laced into his words, Tham would have allowed his feet to pull him towards the horizon again, had the night not been ripped by the heavy rustle of wings.
Their tips pressed to his chest sternly, holding him back if only with thought. Their weight seemed heavy sad, the darkness of a shroud draped over a body. His ribcage spilt its treasure of sour spirits.
"Tham--," the voice was far off, creeping like memory through the chill of the night wind into marrow, "--What number was I?"
Another batch of groaning souls left Tham's core. After a moment's hesitation, he threw his shoulders in a diagonal blade in attempt to break his cage of hollow porcelain and membrane.
Osiris' wings only crossed themselves double, an impenetrable x.
"What number was I?"
There was a horrible moment, filled with the swirling of bats across the lighter ring of sky about the moon, and the clanging of iron bells marking the next gathering of jolly Diggers in their righteous shrouds. But he could not ignore the question, the question that ever pressed talons to his crux of dust and empty space-- even now.
"I don't remember."
The wings dropped away listlessly, parting like sandy soil.
Tham walked onwards, the stone rows before him.
Rows and rows and rows.
Again the sky was torn with the tremendous beating of wings and a silhouette melted back into its flock of night children.